Dracula isn’t just a terrifying creature of the night. In the Hotel Transylvania franchise, he’s also the owner of the five-stake Hotel Transylvania, a paradise for monsters looking to relax and forget about their daily struggles. Running the resort has been Dracula’s top priority for over a century. Now, the lovable vampire is finally taking a break in Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation.

The film follows Dracula (voiced by Adam Sandler) as he goes on a cruise alongside his friends and family. The monsters’ dream vacation turns out to be anything but relaxing, however, as the ship’s mysterious captain, Ericka Van Helsing (Kathryn Hahn), plans to put an end to Dracula once and for all.

The Hotel Transylvania franchise has become a worldwide phenomenon. Over the past five years, the endearingly monstrous universe has expanded into video games, television and even theme parks. With Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation coming to theaters on July 13, let’s take a look at how the franchise became such an astounding success.

Gaining Recognition

Hotel Transylvania faced a big challenge prior to release. Animated movies, especially those not based on pre-existing properties, can have a difficult time standing out in an environment largely dominated by live-action blockbusters. Hotel Transylvania had a strong advantage: its cast. Sony and director Genndy Tartakovsky drew attention to the project by lining up an A-list voice cast led by Adam Sandler.

As one of our most popular comedians, Sandler’s involvement pushed the project from relative obscurity to strong contender, and raised public interest. Of course, Sandler wasn’t the only star involved in the film. Complementing the actor’s strong box office draw were Selena Gomez as Dracula’s daughter Mavis, and Andy Samberg as Johnny, Mavis’s mumbling boyfriend. Hotel Transylvania‘s star-studded cast gave the film healthy exposure before release, and positioned it as a promising new animated property.

A Fresh Comedic Approach

[Credit: Sony Pictures Animation]

Hotel Transylvania complemented its stellar voice cast with a fresh approach to humor. The movie was hilarious and used its characters’ monstrous nature to craft wildly entertaining but still relatable situations. That said, Hotel Transylvania wasn’t silly for the sake of being silly.

Instead, director Tartakovsky used comedy as a vehicle to explore Dracula’s relationship with his daughter and his constant struggle to accept the fact that she had grown up. As Tartakovsky explained during an interview with Collider

“You have to make the conscious decision not to go to scary-funny … the next things you want to avoid are puns … [those are] good for a laugh, but we really wanted to do a character comedy.”

Hotel Transylvania‘s comedic sensibilities resonated with audiences, and the film went on to earn $358 million worldwide. Success allowed the franchise to expand outside of film. Several video games based on the property were developed. Furthermore, a 2D-animated short film, Goodnight, Mr. Foot, focused on Big Foot’s stay in Dracula’s five-stake resort, was released soon after Hotel Transylvania arrived in theaters. 

Expanding The Franchise

[Credit: Sony Pictures Animation]

Hotel Transylvania‘s financial achievement also opened the door for a sequel, Hotel Transylvania 2. The film centered on Dracula learning to adjust to life as a grandfather after Mavis gives birth to a baby boy. Much like its predecessor, Hotel Transylvania 2 used its signature comedic style to touch on themes like acceptance, unconditional love and inevitable change. Audiences got to see Dracula struggle and slowly come to terms with the possibility of his grandson being a normal human.

Once again, the public gravitated toward the franchise’s fresh perspective, and Hotel Transylvania 2 became a box office hit, bringing in $473 million, over $100 million more than its predecessor. The movie’s astounding financial success paved the way for further exploration of the universe. The saga expanded with a new animated short, Puppy! and even its own prequel TV series, focused on Mavis’s adventurous childhood in her father’s hotel.

Now Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation promises to expand the spooky universe while staying faithful to what made the series such an endearing property in the first place.

Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation will arrive in theaters on July 13, 2018.